For the fifth year in a row, Toronto-based clothing brand Kotn, known for their ethically-made, wide-ranging variety of minimal and comfortable clothing, will not be going on sale this Black Friday. Instead, they’re donating 100 percent of proceeds from their orders, from Friday through Tuesday, towards building five schools in rural Egypt. It’s part of a growing movement among independent retailers against Black Friday and the rampant consumerism and environmental damage that it causes.
Founded by friends Rami Helali, Mackenzie Yeates, and Benjamin Seh, Kotn started with a goal of creating casually elegant clothes without sacrificing quality of the material or the integrity of the people who made it. To develop a closer relationship with the people crafting the clothing, CEO Rami Helali lived in one of Egypt’s cotton farming communities, Nile Delta, for six months. Helali’s time there has given Kotn a uniquely close understanding of Egypt’s cotton farmers, and has helped Kotn develop a an innovative supply chain through the creation of direct-trade partnership. By removing callous middlemen, the brand works directly with responsibly-run yarn mills, dye houses, and cut-and-sew facilities, ensuring fair wages and treatment throughout their supply chain, better prices for their customers, and 100 percent traceability from farm to store.
Working so closely with cotton farmers has allowed Kotn to identify one of rural Egypt’s direct needs: convenient education access for all children. Recognizing that 25 percent of rural Egypt’s population is affected by illiteracy, Kotn has taken the initiative to create The ABCs Project. Since 2017, the brand’s Black Friday proceeds have gone on to fund ten schools and open seven in the Nile Delta and Faiyum regions.
“This year marks a milestone for The ABCs Project, a Kotn initiative that was born out of the fundamental need for quality, accessible education for our farming communities,” said Helali while discussing the immense impact and importance of their mission. “Currently there are still half a million children without access to education in rural Egypt. By funding primary schools through The ABCs Project, our mission is to drive sustainable growth within these communities, bridging the socio-economic gap between those who wear and create our product. Opening the door for one child opens the door for their family, their community, and for generations to come.”
To celebrate the fifth anniversary of building schools in Egypt, Kotn has collaborated with a global group of artists to create a limited-edition apparel collection inspired by what an enduring community means to them. Artist partners include Luis Mora from Toronto, Ryan Vicente Lee Grees from Cairo, Montreal based artist Julia Gr, and Los Angeles based artist Lilian Martinez. The designs will be available to shop in store and online beginning Black Friday (Nov. 26).